A legendary sweet wine and Pythagoras' best work

A legendary sweet wine and Pythagoras' best work

I have two Christmas suggestions for you. Both are perfect for the interested wine drinker and both are from my randomly chosen Island of the Month - Samos. The first suggestion, guaranteed to provide first-rate dinner table entertainment, is a Pythagorean cup.

Pythagoras of Samos is better known in mathematical circles, but his contribution to the world of wine is arguably even more amusing. A Pythagorean cup looks like a normal drinking vessel, except it has a small column rising from the centre of the bowl. You will need to pass this off as part of the design. It works normally until you fill the cup to a level just above this column. At this point a syphon is created and the entire contents of the cup drain rapidly out through the centre, completely ruining your Christmas trousers.

For this exercise, you'll want of course to use some cheap red wine. But in the background, you can be drinking something better. In fact, staying with Samos, you can be drinking something legendary. Samos is a medium-sized island in the eastern Aegean, about a mile off the coast of Turkey. They've been making wine here for thousands of years, and they're specialists. Huge swathes of the island are planted with just one variety - Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. And almost all of that is controlled by one producer, the co-operative.

They make a bewildering array of wines. The best is Nectar. It's made by sun-drying grapes from selected vineyards to give a very sweet wine. This is aged in oak for at least six years, but sometimes far longer. It is a world-class sweet wine, amber in colour, with loads of complexity, and great sweetness matched by bracing acidity. It's sweet, but never cloying. Like most sweet wines, it's unfashionable and therefore absurdly cheap relative to the effort it takes to produce. We have two vintages in stock. The 2011, which is the current release, and the 1980 which has been aged in oak for thirty years.

This is a review of the 1980 from Jancis Robinson MW:

Mid bright reddish tawny. Very sweet and heady with some concentration. Butterscotch on the nose. It smells as though it's going to be a bit heavy going and sickly but the acidity on the finish is just great! It's labelled by hand. Sweet at first and then so transparent and lively. Was this specially bottled for us? If so it's a great loss to the wine world. Fabulous balance and drinkable without food. Just starting to be a little chewy on the finish. 19 points.Jancis Robinson MW

Best served after dinner, once the Pythagorean cup has been safely stowed away.

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